Friday, May 26, 2006

Recipe: Baingan ka Bharta (Indian Roasted Eggplant Spread)

Ok ok don’t panic. I have eggplants piling up in my kitchen and I don’t want any going to waste.

Here’s an adaptation of a recipe from a fellow blogger I’ve been meaning to try. I would serve this the day after it is made to allow the flavors to develop.

Baingan ka Bharta

3 large eggplant or 6 medium eggplant or 1 dozen small Japanese eggplant
3 onion, finely chopped
1 can plum tomatoes, chopped
3-inch chunk of ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp red chili paste
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp garam masala
3 tsp cumin seeds
salt, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
fresh chopped coriander leaves, for garnish

1. Make tiny slits all around the eggplant and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, till eggplant gets a charred coating on all sides.
2. Remove the charred skin and chop eggplant meat. Place in a strainer over a bowl to allow liquid to drain. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a pan and saute cumin seeds and ginger until they begin to sizzle.
4. Add in onions and fry till brown. Season with some salt, red chili paste and turmeric and fry spices till fragrant.
5. Add tomatoes and cook until reduced, about 10-15 minutes.
6. Add mashed drained eggplant and garam masala. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly to blend in well.
7. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with naan or pita bread.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Organic Farming Solutions

I learned a lot today about organic farming from Mrs. Rosalina Tan who is one of the founders of OPTA and from Ed Samaniego who gave a seminar on Biointensive Organic Farming. I had five problems dealing with my vegetable plants and each one was answered today.

1. Some of my plant's leaves are turning yellow -- this is a sign of nitrogen deficiency.

2. My squash and melons die after growing healthily for 2-3 weeks after being transplanted -- might be a fungal infection due to overwatering.

3. I have an infestation of some powdery white substance underneath the leaves of some plants -- these are aphids which can be terminated with a product OPTA was selling called Bioneem, a natural insecticide made of neem extract, lemongrass, citronella and atis extract. The citronella in this mixture makes this product dangerous to all insects on the farm which includes beneficial ones. This product should only be sprayed on the affected plants.

4. Some of my tomatoes turned brown at the bottom -- calcium deficiency: add egg shells or dolomite to soil. I read a bit on dolomite as a supplement to calcium deficient soil and found out that it is not recommended in organic farming. A good source of calcium used by organic farmers is gypsum (calcium sulfate), mined limestone, legume green manure, rock (tricalcium) phosphate, wood ash, clam & oyster shells. Calcium apparently solves many organic farming problems such as resistance to disease and poor crop yield.
5. What to mix with coco coir as a mix for fertilizing soil -- vermiculture or chicken manure.

Will apply these solutions and see what happens. I had a long and pleasant conversation with Mrs. Tan who is quite dedicated in advocating organic agriculture. I'm glad to have met such an admirable woman. Cheers to you Mrs. Tan! Check this site for information on OPTA's history and mission.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Endocrine Disruptors

Here is an article that shows how the insane amount of man-made chemicals in our environment directly affects our health. Unfortunately none of our human senses can detect the presence of these chemicals that surround us and have become part of the air we breathe and the food we eat. We feel the adverse symptoms from unconsiously injesting this chemical cocktail of endocrine disruptors. The symptoms of which is a hormonal imbalance for women in their 20's and 30's. I myself was diagnosed with a hormonal inbalance which my doctor wanted to treat with injections of hormones. Aside from the fact that I am terrified of injections I also didn't like the side-effects she enumerated. I looked for a gentler and natural way of treating it so instead I took Evening Primrose Oil which helped tremendously. I then went on a fast called the Master Cleanse by Stanley Burroughs and my hormonal imbalance was cured.

Typhoon Season

The typhoon season is upon us. The winds are pretty strong and it looks like it will be strong typhoons this year. Most people stayed in town for the weekend as typoons already started in some provinces. Here in the city its been raining and last night the winds were howling but no typhoon yet. Well, looks like my tomato plants will have an early retirement. Time to start planting water hungry vegetables and fruits. Although typhoons do hit the city pretty badly, my farm in Antipolo will be safe from them. Or thats what its geograhic climate suggests, I hope global warming hasn't changed that.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Spice Is Right 2: Sweet & Savory: Chili Pepper

Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries has come up with another great theme for the second round of the Spice Is Right. It didn’t take me long to think of a spice for this event - Chili Peppers! As bizaare as this may sound chilis can be used in a dessert, something I found out a year ago when I tried the Chili Chocolate Crème Brulee at M Café (I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food). To my surprise, the combination of chili and chocolate went really well together. It’s now one of my favorite desserts.

Chilis or Sili, as we call it in the Pilippines, is used sparingly in some native savory dishes especially in the provinces of Bicol and Mindanao. Bicol is in the northern part of the Philippines and Mindanao in the southern part. Although, most Philippine dishes do not use sili, many of our condiments do and usually come in either plain, sweet or spicy flavors. For example vinegar is either plain or spicy. Spicy vinegar is made by infusing vinegar with whole chilis and leaving it in the bottle giving it a decorative look. Bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) comes in plain, sweet and spicy flavors. Soy sauce is mixed with chopped chilis or chili oil and served on the side. The amount of heat depends more on the variety of chili being used. The spiciest being sili labuyo and the milder one just plain sili. Siling labuyo which was in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the hottest chili in the world with a heat scale rating of up to 100,000 Scoville Units, but that was corrected and Mexican habanero chilis are found to be the hottest with a heat scale range of 100,000 to 500,000 Scoville Units. Whatever the case, this gives you an idea of how hot silis are! The other variety, called sili, is a mild chili and is usually used in cooking spicy dishes. One thing I found out is that the longer you leave a dish that has chili in it the spicier it gets so don’t leave leftovers for too long.

My first experience with siling labuyo was not a pleasant one. When I was a child I was playing at a neighbors house and happened to see a chili pepper plant. Thinking my yaya (thats nanny in plain English) said “cherries” I quickly grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. The resulting explosion, and that’s what it felt like, left me in pain for a couple of hours. That’s one experience I will never forget. But, the past being the past I now enjoy spicy food to the extent of adding it to sweets. So here I bring you Chili Chocolate Truffles. Trust me, it really is good.

Chili-Chocolate Truffles
These are delicious, but the recipe can be improved. I will change the use of cayenne the next time around. The flavor of chili peppers just didn’t come through. It had a hint of spiciness but lacked flavor. The next time I make these truffles I’m infusing the cream with fresh whole chilis. I also added 2 teaspoons of powdered sugar to the cocoa powder, I find covering the chocolate balls with pure cocoa too bitter.

Makes 18 to 20 small truffles

10 oz (280 g) bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup (50 mL) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cayenne pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) cocoa powder + 2 tsp. powdered sugar

1. Finely chop chocolate with a knife or in a food processor. Place in a large bowl with butter. Pour cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. As soon as cream boils, remove from heat. Then pour over chocolate and butter. Stir until melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in honey and cayenne. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

2. To make truffles, scoop out a small amount of mixture with a melon baller. Use your hands to shape chocolate into 1- to 2-inch (2.5- to 5-cm) balls. Set each ball on plate or in a container. If your in a warm climate like I am, you will have to return the bowl of chocolate and the balls of chocolate to the fridge and continue when chocolate has hardened, about 15-20 minutes. I had to do this about 4 times.

3. Sift cocoa powder and powdered sugar into a small bowl, whisk well to combine. Place one truffle in bowl. Gently roll to completely coat. Shake off excess. Return to container. Repeat with remaining truffles. Separate truffles by layering between sheets of wax paper. Refrigerate. Truffles keep well up to 5 days.

Gentle Rains

Its a welcome respite from the intense heat we've been experiencing this summer, the gentle rain. All night thru this morning it continues to drizzle. The air is still warm though. The plants are loving it and so am I.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Recipe: Tomato Parmesan Bread Pudding

I used french bread that was a couple of days old for this recipe. The bread was devoid of moisture, hard and crusty. The pudding turned out nice and chewy, the way I like it. I didn't measure anything so I'm guessing at the amounts I used.

1 cup chopped tomato
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
days-old demi-baguette, cubed
1/2 cup AP cream
1 egg
1/4 cup water
4 heaping tsp. Parmesan cheese

Beat cream, water and egg with a fork. Add bread cubes and leave it to soak. Mixing it several times to make sure all the cubes are evenly soaking up the liquid.

Briefly cook tomato and garlic in a pan with oil,season with salt (not to much because cheese is already salty). Sauce should be wet. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then add to soaking bread. Add 3 tsp. cheese. Mix well. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake in 350 degree F oven until golden brown and puffy, about 20 minutes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Fruits of the Farm

I spent the afternoon with my friend J at the farm yesterday. Had some drinks and music playing while I checked out the veggies.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mangoes Galore!

It's the season of mangoes and I was given a kaong (a large basket) of green mangoes! Aside from eating it with bagoong, which I will surely do, I will try some new recipes using this sour fruit. Already I have found some Indian pickles and Indonesian salad recipes on the net. Looks like mangoes are in season all around SEA.

Some of them are turning yellow. Mango jam is next on the list.